Updated: Jul 17, 2019
They are good people! I can’t afford to replace them! I haven’t got the time to develop them! Better the devil you know!
These are all statements that I have heard over the years from sales managers who consistently put up with poor performance from their sales staff. They would rather put up with their people not hitting their targets than have to dedicate time to either improving or replacing them. It’s surprising how many sales people get away with not producing top performances month in, month out because of the inertia brought about by management being content with the status quo.
It may be that the sales team’s results are sufficient for the business’s needs, however, missing targets regularly does so much damage in other ways.
Sales people feel continually under threat, fearing that they will only get away with it for so long.
Complacency sets in so, if the business did need a push for more sales, it would cause distress and anxiety as this is against the norm.
Bad habits are created rather than the good habits that come from regular success.
Change becomes harder and harder, the longer the situation is left.
Eventually, there will be an event that will bring things to a head with either the sales person leaving or being pushed out.
All of these things simply perpetuate the acceptance of poor performance.
So, what can you do about it?
The first stage is to introduce the right level of accountability. Start to measure the basics such as sales activities (prospecting calls, appointments, quotes, conversion rates) and review them with the sales people regularly, initially every week. Set activity expectations and make the sales people responsible for reporting their figures, as long as you have the means to verify them.
You can then use these statistics to ascertain where the issues are that are causing the poor performance. Is it a lack of activity? Not being focussed on the right market? Poor sales skills? Poor motivation?
The numbers won’t tell you the answers but they will tell you what questions to ask and where to look.
Talk to your sales people about their motivation. How do they feel about their role? How do they feel about the company they work for and the support you give them? What motivates them - is it security, a desire to build wealth, a feeling of success? Then act on what you discover. Find ways to motivate each individual, rather than treating everyone the same.
Also look at their behaviours and body language to determine if their motivation is how it should be. Do they seem lacklustre and disinterested or are they full of energy and enthusiasm. If they do not have enthusiasm and excitement for their role, then you need to do something about this quickly. Customers like to buy from enthusiastic people who pass that energy on to them. They are turned off by the opposite.
Introduce incentives and pay plans that reward the right activity levels as well as the results. Focussing the sales people’s pay on putting in the right level of effort as well as the sales that brings will raise the activity and bring more opportunities.
Train, Train and Train Again
I’m sure you would expect me to say this, but a continuous sales training development plan is essential to a consistently good performance. Not only will your people feel more valued as you put effort, time and investment into them, their enhanced skills will help them to close more sales.
Be A Coach and Mentor
Get out on the road with your field team or spend time sitting with your telephone sales people. Show them that you are interested in what they do and want to help them develop. This not only adds value to your relationship with them but also introduces another level of accountability.
But, make sure this happens regularly, not just a one off never to be repeated.
If you would like more advice on turning poor sales performers into winning target hitters, then please get in touch.
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